The union representing locked out workers at Codiac Transpo in Moncton says the contract dispute could be over this afternoon if the city would agree to binding arbitration.
Transit buses in the Moncton area have been off the road since June 27, which union leaders say has affected about 7,000 people.
George Turple, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290, appealed to the public at a news conference Monday morning.
He asked citizens in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe to contact their councillors and demand their bus service start running.
"It is your transit system and you have a right to have it," Turple said.
"The city ... should not have taken this system away and they should recognize and they've refused to recognize the parties that they're hurting in this situation — our seniors, our people with disabilities, soon to be our students, our working class, our businesses — everybody is being affected by this."
Also at the conference were more than 20 local bus drivers dressed in their uniforms, Stan Dera, the ATU Canadian director, and Larry Kinnear, the ATU international vice-president, as well as a number of ATU local presidents from New Brunswick and Ontario.
Kinnear, who represents more than 10,000 transit workers in Toronto, says pressure on the mayor and council is only going to intensify.
"I've been calling the City of Moncton almost every day," Kinnear said.
Dan Robichaud says he came to apply some pressure of his own.
The Moncton man has MS and epilepsy, and with an income of $705 a month, he says he can't afford a cab, so he's been walking.
"Most days I'm so weak I just have to hold on to everything, whether it's cars," Robichaud said. "I've been stopped by the RCMP thinking I was drunk. It's just unbearable how the Codiac Transit wanted more money and to me, that's wrong."
Gary Huntington is a driver with Codiac Transpo, and after nine weeks, he is also asking the city to go back to the table.
"It's been tough but you know what? [We're] still here, still going strong and I want to go back and am willing to go back to work today," Huntington said.
The union is still willing to go to binding arbitration or to accept a deal he says the two sides agreed upon in 2010.
The city, however, is not willing to go into arbitration.
"With regards to the union’s demand to go to binding arbitration, we’ve been clear on why this does not make sense for the city," Paul Thomson, a spokesman for the city, said in an email to the CBC.
"Binding arbitration decisions typically meet in the middle between a union’s demands and an employer’s offer. As such, it makes sense for ATU 1290 to make the most unrealistic offer they can and then ask for binding arbitration — knowing that a binding arbitration decision will split the difference between their demands and the city’s offer."
The Local 1290 workers have been without a contract since 2010.
Wages remain a sticking point in the contract dispute. The city's last offer to the transit workers contained a 13.75 per cent wage increase over five years.
That deal would have been retroactive to July 2010, and it contained improved health and dental benefits. The city’s offer would have brought a bus driver’s annual salary to $51,000 in 2015.
By comparison, the union was asking for a 23 per cent wage increase over five years.
That would have brought a Codiac Transpo bus driver's annual salary to $55,120 in 2015, according to the city.
"Anything more than a two per cent annual increase is unrealistic and unjustifiable to the taxpayers of greater Moncton," Thomson said.
"The Amalgamated Transit Union is holding riders, citizens and Council over a barrel with a wage demand that would see their salaries increase from over $44,000 a year today to over $55,000 at the end of their contract."